In this episode of Engaging Internal Comms, The Big Picture People’s Craig Smith talks to Imogen Hitchcock, the owner of Beaumont – a company whose mission is to change the way companies tell their story.
Founded by Imogen in 2015, Beaumont comprises a small team with a big punch. They are passionate about helping individuals, teams, and companies to build trust and influence through effective communications.
Based in Switzerland, Beaumont works across several sectors and companies that range from some of the newest tech startups emerging from Switzerland’s universities to big multi-nationals.
Prior to creating Beaumont, Imogen held senior internal communications roles in the public and private sector, working for leading multinationals and local councils.
What are employee ambassadors?
The role of internal comms has evolved in line with how people expect to receive, locate, and trust information. Employee ambassadors play a vital role in delivery of this information.
Imogen says that employee ambassadors bring human and relatable internal communication to the audience in a trustworthy, authentic, and reliable channel.
“Surveys have shown that fewer than 50% of people actually trust the CEO of their company,” says Imogen. “But that percentage rises when it comes to using a person ‘like me’ (relatable to the audience) as a source of information. We’re constantly looking for people we can relate to in order to find out information and build our views. And that’s where employee ambassadorship is strong.”
The principles required to create ambassadorship
The creation of an employee ambassador happens organically within an organisation, with only mild direction and instruction. This ensures authenticity in the ambassador’s purpose, with the role growing from the ambassador’s loyalty and passion – qualities that cannot be mandated.
A healthy cynicism in these employees serves the organisation well, helping to create diversity and expose honest feedback, thus steering clear from the ‘how we’ve always done it’ approach.
Imogen says that diversity should be encouraged not only on a personality level, but also through length of service and level of seniority.
The role of the employee ambassador is not simply an ad-hoc part of an employee’s job description. “If organisations are going to be serious about the wealth of support and passion they have in their employee base, then they need to reflect that in their ambassadorship programme as well,” says Imogen.
The advantages of employee ambassadors from a business case perspective
With CEOs and senior management often heavily focused on performance, profits, and KPIs, encouraging the use of financial and time resources to be spent on ambassadorship programmes can be a challenge.
However, there is much evidence on the financial advantage ambassadorship can have to an organisation, including:
- Higher end-of-year net profit
- Higher level of engagement
- Increased productivity
- Lower employee turnover rate
- Lower recruitment costs
While financial benefits are usually most appealing to senior management, the emotional advantages are what encourage a healthier bottom line because employees understand the difference they make in the development of the organisation. Employee ambassadors remove the boardroom jargon and replace it with relatable, trustworthy, and motivating language. This helps to ignite passion and enthusiasm within employees.
“These are really very clear indicators that an ambassadorship programme, for all the difficulties and the challenges you face in setting it u,p is worthwhile because it will affect the bottom line, and it will help the CEO do their job better,” Imogen clarifies.
How to begin the journey to creating employee ambassadorship
To begin creating an employee ambassador programme within an organisation and reap the huge benefits it brings, Imogen recommends firstly ensuring the project leader is on board. This will be a person with high emotional intelligence, and who understands the exponential benefits and importance of employee engagement. They may be found in corporate HR teams and will have already had some involvement in engagement programmes.
Imogen also emphasises the need to manage expectations of reality. It is important to ensure that employees and those involved in the ambassadorship programme understand that it is a long-term goal. A goal that requires commitment before game-changing results become apparent. Taking this step will ensure dedication and continued motivation when results aren’t seen overnight.
A big picture should be shared, involving setting:
- A measure of success – the goal
- An idea of how it could be reached
- Evaluation methods and times
When finding the right people to enrol onto the employee ambassador programme, Imogen’s advice is to start small.
“Why not do a pilot programme in one of your offices or one of your markets which is particularly engaged, and take advantage of your people in there to find out what an ambassadorship programme looks like for them?” suggests Imogen.
Upon listening to the feedback and insights of the team, discuss what tools they’ll need to help continue the programme successfully.
Make it clear to the team that you need them to be transparent and open with their feedback and opinions. Most importantly, ensure they are interacting and working together.
The skills of an employee ambassador
Ambassadors will naturally exhibit certain skills that allow them to work well without any instruction or guidance and which they continue to develop organically through ambassadorship programmes. Such skills include:
- Core communication skills
- Writing skills
- The ability to listen empathically
- Writing ability
- Coaching ability
But there is much more to becoming a skilled ambassador than this. Craig questions whether there should be a development framework that can monitor an ambassador’s performance and effectiveness to not only enhance their abilities, but also allow them to showcase incredible life skills and talent professionally on their CVs.
Doing so also creates a brilliant way for an organisation’s brand to present a nurturing support programme to its employees, consequently encouraging engagement and passion deeper amongst its people.
An Employee Ambassador is the authentic voice within an organisation. The filter between senior leadership and its people. The conduit that allows them all to communicate together as a whole.
“I think it’s important to know when you’re starting an ambassadorship programme what success actually means for you and your company,” Imogen concludes. And when an entire organisation is singing from the same hymn sheet, only good things can happen.